Lessons from gecko poop.

Gecko poop, piles of dog hair, a drug den and hard, hard, hardwood floors. These are some of the ingredients that mixed together formed a breaking point of sorts in my soul and taught me something good and well.

We were brand new to Australia and had moved into a rental house we’d applied for without having seen in person. Within a short time of being there we were told that the previous tenants had been arrested for drug dealing and people still drove by, hoping for a deal or two to go down.  Mmmm. That’s a comforting thought with three children underfoot. The house was filthy. Years of grime filthy. So I spent a good amount of time trying to de-grime it. We were in the middle of a five month stint of homeschooling, as we had just come out of an American Summer, then had weeks of visiting family and had weeks to go before the new school year started in Queensland. So we had this beautiful homeschooling routine, which brought structure to our lonely days, but we had no furniture, so would sit on these hard wooden floorboards. I could go on, but I won’t. All in all it was a full blown recipe for some ‘character building’ moments.

Character building seasons are all very well and good, for a time.

For a time.

But I quickly discovered that if you’re in one of these character building seasons, but happen to leave the back door of your heart open to some stinkin’ thinkin’, well then.

Well then indeed.

I’ve never really been one to think ‘woe is me’. That wasn’t my dealio. Nah. My problem was more to do with entitlement and thinking I/ my family deserved better.

That thinking in me, didn’t last, thanks be to God. But I see a lot of it all around me. And have decided that nothing good comes from it.

There’s a lot of people out there thinking they are ‘deserving’ of stuff.  And from my experience, that just opens up a whole can of worms.

If you’re not a Christ follower then entitlement completely makes sense: you work hard, you do your best in whatever it is you’re doing, you work your way up the ladder and good stuff follows. You deserve the salary, the houses, the cars, the holidays. You get stuff, because of what you do.

If you are a Christ follower, then things in your world are a little or a lot more topsy turvey. The last shall be first. A goal to have is to ‘act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with my God’.  The bible encourages us to look out for others, especially the widows, the orphans and the poor. There’s not a whole heap of self establishing going on in the bible, but there is a lot of outward looking, community building, watching out for others shenanigans.

And so, this is where I found a big disconnect with those, including myself, who have thought that so and so ‘deserves’ such and such.

I now believe that there’s actually nothing in the world that I really deserve.

Everything I am and have, is through Gods grace. Through God’s goodness. You see if I were to believe, as a christian, that I deserved such as such because I’ve done such and such to earn that, then isn’t that putting our own economy of scale on something we have absolutely no right to do? Because the minute we do, it all blows up in our faces. I can’t ever say ‘I deserve’ this…..when it discredits others I know, who are doing incredible God stuff.

Friends of ours who selflessly and tirelessly foster children. Time and time again they open up their home and their hearts, creating space for just one more.

My christian doctor friend who over and over, didn’t charge me what she could have, when I was on a cocktail of painkillers and never ending appointments.

All the christian teachers I know who plan and pray and do their best to protect the children in their care.  The job where enough is never done, there’s always more to do.

You see all these people, and countless more, are just getting on and doing stuff,  coz that’s what they believe in. So how can we say that one is more deserving of ‘stuff’ than others? This is the body of Christ getting on and doing stuff. If you’re to single people out and say that what one is doing is more worthy than others, that they deserve stuff, then aren’t you in a way discrediting all the stuff others are doing?

And I don’t think that’s the best way for this world to operate. We need each other. We need to know our callings and we need to be operating to fulfil them and encouraging each other, all the way. And the best way I know of how to keep this entitlement business far from entering the back door of my heart, is to see each and every thing in my life as a gift. Beautiful gifts.

My children.

Spunky hunk of a husband.

Our health.

Food in my fridge.

Friends who love and support me .

A church family who care.

Enough money to pay for electricity, water and gas.

All precious gifts. Anything more would still be a great gift. But nothing I’ve done or will do, ensures the gifting of these things to me. That’s the glory of grace.

Don’t we normally try to look after our gifts, just that extra bit harder? And don’t we think fondly and lovingly towards the giver of our gifts?

I know when I close the back door of my heart to any feelings of entitlement, and just concentrate on the glorious gifts in my  life, then all my attitudes and perspectives are that much healthier, happier and satisfied. Funny how it took a large amount of gecko poop to teach me this.

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Finding the delightful in the different.

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This is for any parent who has ever had to sit through an ‘assessment’ on their child.

For every parent who has had developmental milestones clearly spelt out for them and been told their child fits outside of the normal parameters.

Gulp.

For every parent who has sat through an ‘indivualised education plan’ meeting, appearing as their child’s advocate as best they know how.

That’s never easy, not even for those who have walked this road for years.

The size of your child’s gap between what’s considered ‘normal’ and where they actually are, doesn’t actually reflect how big or small your feelings towards this situation could or should be.

Feelings are feelings, reality is reality.

What you have to shoulder each and every day, is no light load.

The grief you may face, knowing your child’s future will quite likely be rather different to their siblings realities, and the hopes and dreams you may have had for them, have had to morph into something different, to your early dreams for them.

I don’t know what challenges you face in your daily life. I don’t how how hard you have to fight to keep a smile on your face, to keep one foot walking in front of the other. I suspect that you rarely get a break, that sometimes people don’t know how or what to say to you, that you’re used to living in a constant state of exhaustion.

However there are parts of your story that I do know. I suspect if you were to sit me down and share your heart with me, I have an inkling that there are certain things you’d want to make crystal clear for me.

I think you would freely share that even though the tiredness is never-ending, there are still snippets of joy and of hope in your days.

I suspect you’d say that yes the appointments, assessments, meetings and therapies are ongoing and are costly in more than one way, but you’ve come to realize that these professionals are (mostly) on the same team as you, with your child’s best interests truly at heart.

I reckon you’d state, with eyes blinking away the tears, because you’re real and you’re raw, that you’ve come to find the delightful in the different. You see that what sets your child apart from others in how they see the world, or how the world sees them, and you can find some true delight in that.

And isn’t that the thing that makes every parent’s heart swell, in each and every child ? Your child is delightful. Your child has a purpose, your child has a place to belong, your child has unique giftings and talents and abilities.

Your child may well be different, but often, that’s the true beginning of real delight.

Space on my sofa.

I couldn’t tell you what was served in the buffet at our wedding reception. I know it was fun choosing the menu, but I can’t for the life of me remember what was placed on my plate that night. (I do have other wonderful memories of that joyous day though). However, I can describe in great detail the meal we had at the top of the sky tower, celebrating an anniversary with dear friends of ours. As the restaurant moved in a steady 360 degree pirouette, we repeated the same conversation every time we came to the same point again. And again. And again.

There’s a building in this city, that I try to avoid driving past. It isn’t a bad building, it isn’t filled with bad people. It’s to do with what happened in that building, many many years ago. When medical professionals begin a sentence with ‘I’m sorry’, you tend not to have warm fuzzy feelings associated with that place.

The day that glorified dragonfly of a plane delivered us to a new city that was to become our new home, in a new land, my family took up half of all the seats on the plane. As I lugged a sleeping preschooler up to my shoulders, and held on for dear life to the handrail on the stairs,for more than one reason, the heat from the hundred degree day embraced me in moments.

Memories sure are a strange cast of characters in the story of our lives.

I’ve just read a beautiful, soul stirring book, prescribed for me by a Doctor friend. A collection of memories written in a most exquisite manner. Normally when reading such gold, I’d want to share the nuggets of truth and wisdom with all my friends in all the lands. But I’ve held off doing so this time, and instead relished the very personal nature of these memoirs. From one broken soul to another.

But there’s one delicate thread that the author has delicately woven throughout her essays. And it stood out to me, as if this thread was coloured highlighter yellow, against a background of white and grey. Anne’s writings are full of companionship; of facing life’s trials, joys, highs and lows, but facing them with others by her side. And it’s this presence thing that keeps blasting me from every direction.

Some of my memories make me breathe deep and even. Pulse steady and eyes bright. Other memories cause my breath to be short and shallow, with my pulse quickening, my heart racing. We’re reactive beings. Being a bible believing, Holy Spirit filled person, doesn’t stop your body from reacting as it naturally does. But the memories I have that cause my spirit to lift, that bring out all the wrinkles around my eyes, are nine times out of ten the memories I have that featured people by my side. Circumstances may have been hard,  but I was not alone.

This reminder I’ve been given about the importance of companionship, makes me want to have space on my sofa for more. I want my living room door to be one that opens freely and frequently. I also know that there may be times when I need to curl up on my sofa, and have someone else place my snuggly, soft blanket evenly over me. There may be days when someone else potters around in my kitchen, boils my kettle and brings me something warm and nourishing, to be placed on my sofa arm. But what I really long for, is to create a space for others. I want to rearrange the cushions around you. I’ll even hide the one that’s dirty. I know it’s there. I’ll whip up something tasty for you, and I’m working on growing my tea collection, to find something that will just tickle your tastebuds. If you need my snuggly, soft blanket, I’d be delighted to place it over you.

If I ever write a book of memoirs, then I’d like a photo of my sofas on its cover. I know the importance of companionship, I know the blessing of ‘presence’, I just hope and pray I can live it. That I can reach out beyond my four walls, that I can see and respond to others who need my hand of friendship. Come, come friend, come and sit over here. Along with that I hope and pray that I will know when to swallow my pride and step into the unknown with all its vulnerable fragileness during those times when I’m the one who needs to have someone put the kettle on for me.

Memories and companionship. That’s a good mix, right? There’s room on my sofa for you, my friend.

The Right Questions.

Have you ever been around someone who can very skilfully pry info out of you, without you even realizing just how much you’re sharing with them?

Some people are just better conversationalists than others. But I think that this ability to have better conversations, is something we can all learn to do, even if it means moving way out of our comfort zones.

Why should we even care about this?  Why should it even be on our radar? And I mean ‘we’ as a very broad, collective we. You, me, and anyone in our circles. Well for me, it comes down to caring. A very long time ago I was told that ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. And part of caring for people is being interested in them, and part of being interested in people is asking them the right questions.

I believe that people are like onions. We all have layers. Layers upon layers. And it takes intentionality and skill, to dig through the layers in some people. Now some people will very happily shed their layers for you, some people are very open books. God bless ’em. Other people take little more digging, a little more prying and a little more time, to reveal the ‘gold’. For whatever reason, some people cling to their layers a little more tightly than others. And that’s ok.

Last week Darlene Zschech tweeted something her husband had said, in relation to building community. He said ‘everyone is interesting. You just haven’t asked the right questions’.

I love that, because I do believe that everyone has a story. Everyone is interesting if we just take the time to find out a little bit about them.

Recently I read this blog post here by a Krystal Masciale who was guest blogging on Phil Cooke’s blog. It gives some fantastic pointers on how to have better conversations, it highlights some great questions to ask others.

I think that we all do a better job at loving people, in being there for people, when we ask better questions. We can be better leaders, bosses, family members and friends when we show genuine interest in others. Let’s go beyond the ‘hi, how was your week?’. Ya with me?

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